How Will Jason Collins Coming Out Affect the Landscape of Professional Sports?

By Curt Popejoy

There was an announcement this week that impacted every athletes and sports fan of every major sport in the country: longtime NBA player Jason Collins was going to be featured in an upcoming issue of Sports Illustrated as the first professional athlete in one of the major sports to announce they were homosexual.

This is a day most presume will be historic in terms of it’s significance. Collins is a pioneer and hero, and will set into motion a shift in the paradigm in professional sports.

I am not an NBA fan, so I can only speak as an outsider in this instance, but this was an announcement that did not move the meter for me at all. Don’t misunderstand — I am glad Collins did this, and I hope that it means going forward, other athletes in all sports will feel confident should they so choose to “come out” so to speak.

But today I have to wonder, what impact has this had on other sports in the short run? I have to imagine there are dozens of male athletes who have been struggling with this choice and how to handle this newfound information.

At the same time, there are likely dozens of heterosexual athletes who heard this news today and started to panic a little. Like it or not, male professional sports are fueled by testosterone. Many of these athletes, as evidenced today already by Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace, are either too ignorant of the real world, or simply so closed off from it.

They are struggling to deal with not only this information, but the idea that they could be face-to-face very soon with a situation they don’t understand or support in their own locker rooms.

The key to all this is to take it for exactly what it is. Too many who should be excited for this announcement will instead pour over the negative that will come of it when they should be celebrating the good that should come of it. We as a society are so quick to take a moment that we should celebrate and instead find a way to ruin it personally for the sake of defending their cause to those they don’t even know.

You notice I have not offered my personal thoughts the larger issue of whether or not it matters that homosexuals in male professional sports need to be made public, because how I feel about it shouldn’t matter to anyone.

Nothing I say or do will ever impact this issue on any scale, and this young man’s announcement didn’t impact me on a personal level one way or another. To take an example from football: my favorite player in the league is Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. At no point today did I wonder who he was having sex with, and should he announce tomorrow that he’s gay, I won’t wonder about it tomorrow either.

All in all, this is the kind of news that will come and go fairly quickly. Short of a flood of professional athletes following what Collins did, this is going to end in the ether that is the sports news world, especially when you consider there’s a good chance he’s not even on and NBA roster next year.

If you are passionate about this issue one way or another, by all means speak out on it, but be prepared for the backlash on both sides.

Curt covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL draft, and college football for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard.

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